Match report - 1st Sep 2018
By Ken Sims
Sutton Coldfield 22pts v Dudley Kingswinford 26pts
SCRFC 1st XV Team Manger
After the dramatic finish to their last league season, which saw Sutton lift themselves out of the relegation zone with an incredible winning run over the last 9 games, in which they secured 7 wins and 34 points, including 6 try scoring bonus points, Sutton ended their challenging and troubled 2017/18 league season safe in 10th place with places 12, 13 and 14 all relegated but when the fixture list for 2018/19 was published Sutton knew they had a stern test in their opening game as they were drawn against old rivals Dudley Kingswinford, who were runners up in the league last season and they only failed to gain promotion to National 3 when they lost a close fought end of season play-off by the narrowest of margins.
Following their great escape Sutton carried the feel good factor into their well attended summer training activities and importantly they were able to retain all their key players from last season whilst signing exciting new prospects from their own junior ranks or as new arrivals at the club. Sutton also welcomed returning players who had sampled pastures new but this summer chose to return to their home club adding to the power base. Notably: forwards Jack Ward and Lewis Snowden have returned to add muscle and power to the Sutton pack, which although underpowered performed heroically last season; and former Sutton youth player Dave Roberts has returned to add experience and further options to the dynamic Sutton backline.
Against this encouraging background Sutton prepared well for the serious challenge of their opening fixture with Jack Ward joining Josh Bailey to form a new second row partnership and newly returned Lewis Snowden slotted in at blindside flanker to beef up the pack alongside the skilful Peter Meachin at openside flanker and last seasons 'player of the year' Luke Stewart at no8. This new look Sutton side started the game well but unfortunately they failed to secure a shock opening day victory however, they did gain a valuable losing bonus point in the 22-26 defeat, which places them 8th in the table of 14 teams after the first round of opening games.
Although disappointed to lose their opening game to the title favourites, for Sutton there are plenty of positives to take from a game that players, coaches and supporters will look back on and wonder how the home side failed to secure a shock win following a mainly dominant display.
Unfortunately with shades of last season, Sutton suffered a near calamity in the warm up when no8 Luke Stewart fell victim to back spasms and although he bravely took to the field he was clearly hampered throughout.
On a beautiful late summer’s afternoon and on a perfect playing surface Sutton made an explosive start to the game taking play to their opponents from the outset and creating an opening which saw left wing Jack Wells going over in the corner after just 3 minutes of play following a spell of sustained pressure from the powerful Sutton pack... but unfortunately just moments later a mistake on the ball at a defensive lineout in the Sutton 22 was capitalised on by the visitor’s number 8 Dan Hawkins whose try was converted by full back Nick Adams to give last season’s beaten play-off finalists a 7-5 lead against the run of play.
The pace of the game was unrelenting and 19 year old Wells was harshly denied a 2nd try for a forward pass earlier in the build-up but undeterred after 9 minutes Sutton scrum half Tom Harris made a telling break leading to him crossing for a try converted by Ben Morgan to give Sutton a deserved 12-7 lead.
The 2nd quarter saw the visitors get more of a foothold in the game mainly due to the dominance they were gaining at scrum time.
However, a combination of resilient defence by Sutton and butchered opportunities by DK denied the visitors the points to challenge the Sutton lead until with the last play of the first half DK left wing Leo Davies juggled the ball but eventually made the grounding in the corner and Adams expertly converted to send the visitors in at half time with a slender 14-12 advantage.
After the restart it was DK who struck first when after 7 minutes of the second period lock forward Matt Perks touched down with Adams once again adding the extras to extend the lead to 21-12.
Questions were now being asked of this essentially young Sutton side with their more experienced opponents looking to put the game to bed; however, to their great credit, to a man, the boys in green manfully fought back and in truth dominated the rest of the game. Luke Stewart made an excellent break but was denied inches from the line by a great last-ditch defensive tackle but the lively no8 unfortunately suffered a potentially serious knee injury in the process which led to him being led from the field as had captain Sean Harrison earlier in the half.
Impressive debutant Jack Ward moved into the back row to compensate for the loss of Stewart and he too was unfortunate to be denied on the line before Sutton's leading try scorer last season Tom Burrows exploited a gap after 76 minutes on the right wing to open his account for this campaign. Another stand-out debutant, Joel James starting at fullback added the conversion and the home side were right back in the game trailing by just 19-21 with stoppage time approaching.
Sadly for the Sutton boys their hopes were dashed when the visitor’s captain and outside centre Stefan Shillingford just had enough pace to get over in the corner after 79 minutes for the visitors 4th try and a try bonus point following a fine break by fullback Adams, who can be pleased with his afternoon’s work; although the conversion was missed the DK lead was pushed out to 26-19 with time running out.
The character of this Sutton side couldn’t be questioned though and with the outstanding Peter Meachin leading the way they stormed back allowing Joel James to set up a grandstand finish when deep into injury time he kicked a penalty goal to reduce the deficit to 22-26 leaving the home side needing a try to win it.
And win it they almost did when an attacking lineout in the visitor’s 22 was brought to a halt agonisingly short of the try line and shortly after DK were relieved to boot the ball off the park and record a hard fought 26-22 win.
Sutton will look back on what might have been and but for simple early season errors the impressive new look side might well have won a close game against the title favourites. However, this was a performance to be proud of in the context of measuring themselves against the best this league has to offer and with a losing bonus point secured Sutton shouldn't be too down on ourselves.
It is now for Sutton to take the positives from their opening game as they prepare to travel down the M5 this weekend where they take on Hereford RFC and the visitors will be looking for a win in their first away game of the new campaign in what should be another entertaining contest. All supporters welcome. KO 3pm.
In the meantime congratulations to DK who were clinical with the limited opportunities they created and good luck to them for the rest of the season, Sutton look forward to seeing them for the rematch at their place in April 2019.
Team: Steve Crane, Dean Ginn , Sean Harrison(Capt), Josh Bailey, Jack Ward, Lewis Snowden, Peter Meachin, Luke Stewart, Tom Harris, Ben Morgan, Jack Wells, Jack Duthie, Paul Spiby, Tom Burrows, Joel James. Subs(used): Jonah Falconer, Kieran Henderson, Dave Roberts.
Dudley Kingswinford 2nd XV 20pts v SCRFC 2nd XV 10pts:
Sutton 2nd XV travelled to Dudley K to take on their 2nd XV in the Midlands Reserve league and although honours were even with both sides scoring 2 tries each DK converted both their tries and added 2 penalties for good measure giving the host club a 20-10 victory.
The Sutton 2nd XV is playing as a Development side again this season under the direction of Maria Crowfoot Head of Development at Sutton, assisted by Dean Harper assistant development coach and Team manager Simon Davies.
The Sutton tries were scored by Mike Burns and Ryan Potter and Rhoss Price made an impressive return to the action after a long period on the side-lines at the end of last season plus James Wells made a major contribution and Lamar and Vaughan made some big carries in a highly entertaining and close fought contest.